Paul Pierce, the Celtics’ player representative, called for the removal of NBA players union executive director Billy Hunter after Hunter was placed on a leave of absence Friday by the NBPA and president Derek Fisher.
Union representatives are expected to convene Feb. 16 at All-Star Weekend in Houston to determine Hunter’s fate. Pierce said Hunter’s tenure should come to an end.
An independent investigation into the practices of Hunter and the union discovered several misdoings but nothing illegal. Hunter was found to have hired family members, invested union money into a fledging bank that employed his son, agreed to a contract extension without the vote of the union membership, and purchased gifts for executive committee members using union money.
Hunter responded to the report this week by firing his family members and implementing new restrictions against nepotism and limiting the executive director’s powers, but Pierce said the gesture was too late.
“I think with the way things have been going with the association, with all the accusations, I think it’s finally time for some change,” he told the Globe after the Celtics’ 97-84 win over the Orlando Magic Friday night at TD Garden. “A lot of the players have been unhappy with what’s going on and so I think it’s time.
“I definitely think it’s time [for new leadership], too much controversy going on right now. Players [need to] rally around each other and find some new leadership to lead us into the next generation.”
A Melo debut
With Jared Sullinger out for the rest of the season, the Celtics activated fellow rookie Fab Melo for the first time on Friday, giving the center perhaps an opportunity to play himself into the rotation. Melo made his NBA debut against Orlando, recording one steal in 2:38 of action.
Melo has spent the entire season at Maine of the Development League, playing in 19 games, averaging 11.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.6 blocked shots. Melo spent the past few days rehabilitating a quadriceps injury but worked out extensively with assistant coach Jay Larranaga after shootaround and declared himself healthy.
The Celtics did not believe Melo was ready for NBA competition after playing just 63 college games at Syracuse, but he said he embraced the opportunity to play consistently and gain confidence in the D-League.
“That’s the thing I’ve been working hard for, been looking forward to this time,” Melo said. “This is the first game I’m going to be active during the regular season, so I’m very excited and I want to be there to help the team.”
Melo impressed the organization with his attitude and desire to grind in the D-League and wait patiently to join the Celtics. With Sullinger gone, the Celtics need another big man to eat up fouls and play defense.
“I thought it would be a good thing for me; what I needed was to play games,” Melo said. “I was playing there and that will help me. It wouldn’t have been a good thing to be here and have a bunch of guys in front of me and sit on the bench. Being in the D-League during that time was great for me.”
Coach Doc Rivers is slow to trust rookies and has said since Melo was drafted that he is raw and perhaps a couple of years away from being a productive NBA player. But the necessities for bodies may force the Celtics to use him before they desired.
“Yeah, I’m sure we will [look at him] a some point,” Rivers said. “I know how people here love to see the young guys. But I’m sure at some point Fab will find his way on the floor. Obviously, I think you try to give him as much as he can handle and you do try to put him in situations like when he’s on the floor, Kevin [Garnett’s] on the floor to help him.”
Melo said the D-League competition was helpful.
“It just became natural to know the rotation with the defense, just the game experience helped me a lot,’’ he said. “I’m ready to help the team, that’s for sure.’’
Additions on way
President of basketball operations Danny Ainge said the club will fill its two remaining roster spots before the Feb. 21 trade deadline. The Celtics waived Jarvis Varnado and Kris Joseph last month to create roster space and avoid paying more luxury taxes, but after season-ending injuries to Rondo and Sullinger, Ainge said the team will add to the roster.
“We’re going to need to fill those roster spots at some point,” he said. “It gives us flexibility for the time being. We will have a full roster eventually. I’ve always said it’s an opportunity league and a lot of players are biting at the bit for an opportunity.”
Ainge added that the team will have a “game plan” next week for Rondo in terms of his surgery date and recovery. Ainge said earlier this week that Rondo should be ready for training camp.
Bass a starter
With Sullinger out, Brandon Bass returned to the starting lineup. Jason Collins was the first big man off the bench and Sullinger’s injury could also mean more playing time for Chris Wilcox, who has not played extensively since missing a month because of a sprained right wrist . . . The Magic were without Arron Afflalo, who missed his third consecutive game with a strained left calf, while Al Harrington has missed the entire season rehabilitating a right knee injury. Hedo Turkoglu was available and made an appearance in the second quarter. He has played in just nine games this season because of foot surgery . . . The Celtics were 4 for 18 from the 3-point line and are shooting 27 percent beyond the arc in the past nine games.Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @gwashNBAGlobe